Two Christian fellows walk into a bar. Not only is it an excellent place to watch the game, but it’s also a prime location to meet those who need Christ the most. Following in Christ’s steps (spending time with tax collectors and sinners), these two men take a seat at the bar. The bartender asks, “What’ll you have?” Having been in this situation before, the two order beers for two reasons: firstly, they genuinely enjoy beer, even going as far as to call it “Nectar from above” (remember, they’re from Oklahoma). Secondly, having a drink can foster witnessing opportunities. It not only helps them relax but also puts others at ease. On their first visit, they ordered just water, which, alongside their Bibles and tracts, made them stick out. They found that having a beer acted as a kind of social lubricant. But, of course, they genuinely like beer.

However, they sometimes face the tricky question of when to stop, especially when the bartender asks, “Do you want another?” The debate about how much is too much is ongoing among Christians:

  1. Drunk Christians (occationlly inebriated): Some Christians occasionally drink and do not avoid the effects of alcohol or getting drunk. They point out that the Bible, for the most part, has a positive view of alcohol and it’s effects in general. While acknowledging that some people should not drink due to the inability of their personality to handle themselves, they believe they have control. For them, when the Bible speaks negatively about alcohol in certain passages (Eph 5:18 for example), it is only speaking about those who do it continually and cannot stop. They suggest that the present progressive tense is used in these warnings, meaning do not always be getting drunk. Therefore, the Bible only warns against being a drunkard, not simply getting drunk.
  2. Gospel-driven drinking Christians (occasionally tipsy): Some Christians see drinking as an avenue for evangelism. They might frequent places where alcohol is served to engage with non-believers, even hosting events where they provide drinks. While they’re cautious about their consumption, they don’t always avoid the effects of alcohol.
  3. Moderate Drinking Christians (always sober): Many Christians opt for balanced consumption, enjoying an occasional glass of wine or beer but never overindulging. They prioritize moderation and self-control, referencing scriptures that depict non-excessive drinking positively. For them, it’s about finding a middle ground, enjoying alcohol responsibly without compromising their faith.
  4. Soft teetotalism (personal abstinence): Many Christians choose not to drink for a variety of reasons, such as personal or familial experiences with addiction or simply disliking alcohol’s taste or effect. However, they don’t judge others who choose to drink.
  5. Hard teetotalism (universal abstinence): Some Christians believe that all followers of Christ should abstain from alcohol. They point to verses like Proverbs 20:1 to emphasize the dangers of alcohol and argue that modern alcoholic beverages are far stronger than those in biblical times.

Where do you stand on this spectrum?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    7 replies to "Can Christians Drink Alcohol: The Spectrum of Belief in the Church"

    • Tom F

      For me the line is whenever someone loses control of themselves, particularly their emotions. Once that begins to happen alcohol has ceased to be a social lubricant and has begun to control the person. Even if someone is a “happy drunk” it is still too far in my opinion.

    • Scott Eppler

      I’m somewhere around a 3, maybe a 2 on rare occasions. I like the story because it’s more or less what I tell people when they ask my opinion. I say, “If you’re somewhere and you know that someone struggles with alcohol abuse, you should abstain so as not to be a stumbling block for them, but if you’re out somewhere (like a bar) and you’re going to stick out as a ‘holier-than-thou’ stuck-up Christian if you abstain, then, for the sake of the Gospel, have a drink!”

    • Randy Lawson

      I smoke cigars, I drink bourbon, and I worship Jesus.

      If someone objects, that is on them.

      IMO, this is a 20th century manufactured issue. For millennia alcoholic beverages provided safe beverages for mankind. It wasn’t until drinking water was safe to drink, did this become an issue for Christians.

      We are surrounded by 21st century Pharisees.

      • Dave Z

        Not just 20th and 21st century, but AMERICAN 20th and 21st century. Much of it springing from the Temperance movement of the early 1900s. Most of the world never fell into the abstinence position.

    • Lon Holden

      Like the two guys in your story, I like beer. I like trying new kinds of beer when I go out. Having said that, I am like Scott, normally a 3, but a 2 on rare occasions. If I think there is a possibility I will cross the line and my judgment will be impaired, I make sure I have guardrails in place (i.e. someone to drive me home). I do not judge those who may be a 1 as long as it does not become an issue in their lives or in their witness. Also like Scott, the primary factor for me is Paul’s warning to the Corinthians about causing a weaker brother to stumble through the exercise of my freedom. Otherwise, pour me another.

    • Linton Park

      Mostly 3, occasionally 2.

    • Chad Winters

      Jesus turned water into wine….after the party had run out. He didn’t say “No I think everyone has had a glass or two and are starting to enjoy themselves too much”.

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